Drive too fast through South Tacoma Way's teeming business district and you may pass Pho V&V, a cozy, casually authentic Vietnamese restaurant that boasts delicious food at competitive prices.
Owner Bao C. Tran moved to Tacoma from Vietnam in 2000 to be closer to his wife's (Kim Thu) family. He started making his living in South Puget Sound working in a computer electronics company, though he and his wife had a strong background in cooking that stemmed from their past lives back home.
They decided to open Pho V&V a few years after they moved to the area simply because cooking food is something they know how to do well. The restaurant has truly become a family effort, as Tran and his wife run the edifice entirely themselves, and get help from their son and daughter with website design and electrical signs that highlight menu items throughout the shop.
Pho V&V prides its establishment on two main tenets: the first is that the restaurant is entirely free of MSG in its food, a fact that Tran is very proud of.
"We have many problems with MSG in Vietnam because it prompted many health problems. From allergies, headaches and more, it all started after people started using too much MSG. And then it started to become an issue in America, too," he said.
In addition to being MSG-free, nearly all of the food served at Pho V&V is homemade by Tran and Thu in-house.
The other tenet they pride themselves on is being "jazzy," which Tran feels makes for an enjoyable dining experience.
"I taught men to play instruments, pop and dance music in Vietnam. I taught many instruments, such as guitar, woodwinds and more. I compose songs and make many musical experiments. I think that I want many people to accept jazz, and to like the spirit."
While there are many Vietnamese restaurants in the Northwest and many options for dining on the cuisine here in Tacoma, Tran believes his establishment simply cooks excellent food. "We cook very good food. It's important that we have a good environment, along with no MSG, and jazz and cleanliness."
Pho V&V is tastefully decorated in a welcoming and calming fashion. When visitors enter, they immediately see a large fish tank in front of them, are greeted with jazz music in their ears and see paintings and bouquets of flowers adorning the walls. While the restaurant can be slower toward the later evening time, during lunch hours it's often teeming with people all waiting to get their pho fix.
Bowls of the hot, broth-based soup come filled with a protein of choice (options range from steak, chicken, seafood, tofu and more), ample noodles and sides of lime, jalapeno, bean sprouts and sweet basil to flavor the bowl to the individual's own tastes. In addition to the restaurant's namesake dish, meal options include fried rice dishes, Chinese options such as Kung Pao beef, stir-fried dishes with vermicelli noodles and popular Vietnamese coffee and bubble teas with tapioca balls.
The most popular dishes ordered at Pho V&V are the traditional bowl of beef pho noodle soup, which rings in at $4.95 for a small bowl, $5.75 for regular and $6.25 for a super bowl. In addition, appetizer favorites come in the forms of fresh spring rolls ($1.50 each) and egg rolls ($1.35 each), potstickers ($3.49 for eight) and sides of fried tofu ($2.50) for vegetarians and vegans, or fans of tofu.
Tran doesn't currently have plans to open another location, though he has gotten frequent requests to do so, closer to 6th Ave.
"I have opportunities to open another restaurant but don't have the capital do so right now." If the day to open another location comes soon, Tran possesses many of the handy skills necessary to get that location going. He is a certified electrical engineer and saves money fixing common electrical, wiring and lighting problems all on his own.
For quality Vietnamese food that consistently impresses with flavor, size of dishes, authenticity to the cuisine and options for all diets, in a location that is welcoming and comforting, Pho V&V is always a satisfying choice.
Pho V&V is located at 5434 South Tacoma Way. Regular hours of operation for eating in and take-out are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information or to order food, call (253) 475-6165 or visit www.phovandv.com.